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Recurring power outages in Murrysville can be a drain on home systems

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Vicki Ramchandran is tired of resetting her clocks.

For the past two weeks, Ramchandran has experienced short power outages — 20 seconds or less — every day. Her electrician, worried about the affect any surges were having on her air conditioning system, even installed surge protectors outside of her home.

“Every day it seems to happen,” said Ramchandran, of Murrysville. “It's getting to the point where this needs to stop.”

West Penn Power officials say errant tree branches are the likely cause of short power outages throughout the Murrysville area.

Power officials said they have received reports of nine such outages — including one early Monday morning – in the Bulltown Road and Sardis Road areas since early June but that there might be many more that residents aren't reporting.

“Trees are the No. 1 cause of outages we have,” said Todd Meyers, spokesman for West Penn Power. “It's impossible to stop all tree-related outages. We'd have to cut all of the trees down.”

Of the nine incidents about which West Penn received calls, most were caused by tree limbs coming in contact with lines, Meyers said. One outage was triggered by a bird, while another was caused by someone hitting lines while digging.

The company will spend about $25 million on tree trimming this year, Meyers said. That includes sending a specialty helicopter equipped with a chain saw to trim trees in more remote areas. The helicopters have trimmed trees in Murrysville throughout the summer, officials said, and finished local work last week.

“We don't want people to have poor service,” Meyers said. “We try to do a lot of trimming, every four years or so.”

The company's tree trimming program cut down the number of tree-related power outages by 50 percent between 2010 and 2013.

Ramchandran said she thinks there has to be something more than blowing branches behind the outages. They've been a unique problem since she moved to Murrysville six years ago. Lisa Reinheimer, who lives in Heather Highlands, said the outages have caused damage to two TVs, a washing machine and several other electronic devices. Like Ramchandran. Reinheimer said the problems have been going on for several years.

Meyers said residents who experience power outages should call them in, regardless of how long they last. “If we know about them, we can try to get a solution and solve the problem,” Meyers said. “If no customers complain directly to us, we can't do anything about it.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2365, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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